Karen Krizanovich: Venice in Three Days
They say you can’t do justice to Venice in three days. I say you can and I’ve done it more than once. This time, it’s Venice out of season – fewer tourists and more Don’t Look Now. To make life simple, I booked a speedboat from Marco Polo Airport straight to BAUERs Il Palazzo. Central and well-staffed, you don’t need to faff around deciding what, where and why when resident manager Pietro Rusconi knows everything about the city.
To save time, and not get lost, book personal shopper/guide Daniela Cominotto. Both Pietro and she are Venetian and that matters. Meanwhile, book a corner table for dinner at De Pisis. Opt for the tasting menu because, no matter how late or tired you are, you’ll get a good overview of Michelin-starred Chef Giovanni Ciresa’s skills and yet not leave the table feeling like an oinker.
For centuries, Venice was a place of learning. Now, amid the wine-tasting, art history tours and bespoke oil painting lessons, there’s a new cunning twist: a photography workshop. Venice is such a beautiful city that anybody with a phone thinks they’re a snapper. They’re not, of course. We’re not talking Instagram #photogenius here: the course is taught by respected music and celebrity photographer, Soren Solkaer and are scheduled throughout the year. So if you’re not in the mood to roam the standard Venetian haunts, this could be the most beautiful €350 you’ve ever spent.
Venetian pride weighs heavily in this fabled merchant city, so even if you’re not a shopper, start, as many do, with Nardi (Piazza San Marco, 69). This legendary jeweller is famous for a celebrity clientele and for their morettis, a turbaned good luck charm. Nardi’s pieces are exquisitely handcrafted – many unique to their San Marco store. Buy a pair of cufflinks or an irresistible Byzantine-inspired ring fit for a crusader. Even if you hate jewellery, go anyway. Have them pull out a few drawers. Be bedazzled.
Travel tip: if you’re in Venice with someone who is demanding a wedding or a masked ball – or just demanding – try booking an appointment with Antonia Sautter. Her jaw-dropping costumes – plumed hats, lace sleeves, silk and brocade – will make the unhappiest partner smile. Sautter also has several shops that will satisfy a particular itch that only Venice can scratch.
Venetian shirts are the exemplar against which all must be judged. Maneki Neko, a charmingly old-fashioned little place on the corner at Campo Sant’angelo, 3820, is unmissable. Fine shirts for men and women, made from fine Italian cotton, linen and silk, with proper seams and cuffs for those links you bought at Nardi’s if you were smart. If you want a book custom bound – or some ravishing paper – go to bespoke binder Artigiancarta (Frezzeria 1979) where master craftsman Massimo Doretto will bind anything for you with embossed leather, marbled papers and more binding innovations, like glass. And speaking of glass, one of the three top glass manufacturers is Seguso, a Murano-based company that has been going for 24 generations. Ask to be taken to the factory where, if you’re lucky, you can watch a man blow a unicorn. Also, you may be allowed to blow some glass yourself, although they will smash it as you watch. Seguso as a glass manufactory was first documented in 1397, only a few years after all glassmakers were moved to Murano for safety reasons in 1291. So if they smash that thing you blew, it needed to be smashed.
The whole glassblowing experience is really quite magical. After all, Murano has been called the first Silicon Valley. Where would we be without glass? No iPhones, no eyeglasses, no telescopes or microscopes. If you’re in the mood, Seguso glassware is also of museum quality and they do chandeliers, furniture and are always working on technical innovation. When you head back to your hotel, have a look at the light fixtures. All of those at Il Palazzo are made by the Seguso family. Why? Because they’ve been the best at craft and design for a long time.
You may very well feel lured to buy a mask (don’t, unless you’re at Casin dei Nobili at Dorsoduro 2766/b). But succumb to the spritz. A tradition leftover by the Austrian occupation, you may know Aperol’s lower alcohol version of this refreshing mix of prosecco, ice and club soda. When in Venice, it is essential to try the spritz versions made with either Cynar or Select. The former is cola-coloured, made from artichokes, and is an advanced aperitivo, alongside its rarer purple cousin.
Fran Lebowitz wrote, “If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is — Venice is better.” It is. Beguiling, infuriating and always surprisingly beautiful, Venice may be sinking but it’s a city that won’t let you down.
Bauer Hotel, San Marco 1459 – 30124 Venetia. Call + 39 041 5207022 or visit the website www.bauerhotels.com for details.